Urban India – Crumbling Metropolises

Throughout history cities have been centers of civilization and have been engines of growth for commerce and industry. They were hubs of their respective regional economies. Cities also foster and nurture new ideas and serve as centers of excellence for the arts. Owing to their inherent economic strength, and opportunities for growth, they are also beacons of hope for many a budding entrepreneur. Mumbai and New York City continue to attract thousands of such hopefuls every year who contribute to the city through their labour, services and entrepreneurial abilities.

Making Cities Self-Reliant

Across the world there is an increasing trend towards urbanization accompanied by a shift in the nature of economy from agriculture and industry to services. Demographers project that bulk of population growth in developing countries will be in urban areas. In 2002 there were 17 mega cities with 10 million plus population in the world and this figure is expected to grow to 21 by 2015. What is remarkable is the fact that excepting for four of them, all the rest are in the developing world!

Perils of Autocentricity

Our urban population is growing dramatically. According to 2001 census, 285 million Indians lived in cities and towns, more than the American population. The residents of large metropolitan areas of Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi now exceed 10 million each; Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad exceed 5 million each. And 35 other metropolitan areas have more than a million residents – almost twice as many as in 1991. Projections show that our urban population would grow to about 473 million in 2021, and 820 million by 2051.

Urban Chaos and Cultivated Status quoism

The last ten months have witnessed unusually severe natural calamities affecting the sub-continent. The tsunami of December 2004, the Mumbai floods of July this year, and the recent Muzaffarabad earthquake have caused great devastation. But these disasters have a silver lining for India. Our administration did respond with some vigour and alacrity compared with the littoral states of the Indian ocean, US authorities in the wake of hurricane Katrina, and Pakistan officials now.

Bio-fuels – The Wave of the Future

The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has once again brought into sharp focus the world’s energy vulnerability. Global over dependence on oil is now possibly the single biggest risk to economies everywhere.

Oil Security or Energy Security?

The recent oil price hike and India’s frenetic efforts to leverage its diplomatic strength for oil security raise important questions about our future energy needs. Do we have a viable and coherent energy strategy, or are we merely responding in a knee-jerk manner disregarding our long-term interests? A serious debate is necessary on these vital issues.

Migration and Squalor - Crisis in Mumbai

Mumbai, India’s premier city, and the nation’s financial and industrial capital is going through a crisis. The population of the city is growing at 4.5 percent per annum. Predictably, most growth is by migration from poor, rural areas. In 1960, squatters were estimated to be less than 4 lakhs in a population of 4.5 million. By 1980, their number rose to 4.5 million in a population of 9 million. Greater Mumbai is now the sixth largest mega city in the world, with 16.4 million population.

Services Sector – Myths and Realities

Over the past few years, there has been a major debate in India on the relative importance of services sector vis-v-vis manufacturing and agriculture. Economists say services now account for nearly 50% of our GDP, and their growth at 8 to 10% per annum is outpacing both industry and agriculture. Some claim that the rise in service sector's GDP marks a structural shift in the Indian economy and takes it closer to the fundamentals of a developed economy.

Public Good or Private Gain?

In our country the more things change, the more they remain the same! We have had interminable debates on the merits and demerits of public sector vs private sector for two decades now. Meanwhile global economy has changed beyond recognition. Most countries, which subscribed to state monopolies and government ownership altered their policies radically. USSR collapsed, and east Europe has been liberated. China is almost entirely market driven, and state is retreating from business functions rapidly. And yet, our Union cabinet dithers on disinvestments! Let us examine a few facts.

Skewed Priorities in Infrastructure

The recent political controversy surrounding the bifurcation of Eastern Railway and the creation of East Central Railway with its headquarters at Hajipur once again raises two questions: the role of government in running enterprises, and the plight of infrastructure sector. It is by now well-recognized that public sector is often a euphenism for political patronage and private aggrandizement. Politicians in power or out of it, and career bureaucrats as a rule have no respect for economic logic or wealth creation.